WCAI, HIA: 2 wrongs do not make a right in Globalstar proceeding

The Hearing Industries Association (HIA) is joining the Wireless Communications Association International (WCAI) in saying that when it comes to Globalstar and allowing Wi-Fi to operate on Channel 14, two wrongs cannot make a right.

Last week, the WCAI submitted comments noting how Public Knowledge (PK), the Open Technology Institute (OTI) and the Wireless Internet Service Providers (WISPA) are putting forth the idea that if the commission is so inclined to allow Globalstar to use Channel 14, it should allow everyone to do the same. WCAI and HIA said the proponents of such a move are making no effort to address the potential interference that it would cause for Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and Educational Broadband Service (EBS) and Broadband Radio Service (BRS).

In a filing this week, the HIA disclosed that its representatives met on June 17 with Erin McGrath, legal advisor to Commissioner Michael O'Rielly, whose vote is seen as key in which way it goes for Globalstar's proposal to provide terrestrial low power service (TLPS). Fellow Republican Commissioner Ajit Pai has put out a statement in opposition to Globalstar's plan. Democratic Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel is said to be against it, but at least one analyst has suggested that was just a bargaining tactic. Democratic Commissioner Mignon Clyburn reportedly had not yet cast a vote as of today.

Globalstar said TLPS can be easily used to immediately increase the nation's Wi-Fi capacity by a third, providing a better wireless experience for consumers. But opponents, including HIA, have said they're gravely concerned TLPS will degrade the performance of Bluetooth devices.

HIA said Wi-Fi Channel 14, on which Globalstar seeks to build a network, has served as a de facto "safe harbor" in the 2.4 GHz band for lower power unlicensed devices, including Bluetooth Low Energy hearing aids, FDA regulated wireless medical devices and other frequency-hopping technologies.

"The public benefit of ensuring ongoing reliable communications of an installed base of Bluetooth and similar devices – many FDA approved – used by hundreds of millions of Americans outweighs allowing one company to operate a private network that would serve a few," HIA told the commission.

Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) has said that if the Globalstar proposal were to move forward despite all the concerns that have been raised, then the FCC should expressly commit to initiating a future proceeding to open Channel 14 for public use if TLPS use is shown to be viable in practice.

PK and OTI have also reiterated their support for expanded use of Wi-Fi Channel 14 and for Globalstar's proposed waivers if the FCC can ensure it will create a net benefit for the public interest. OTI and PK said Wi-Fi Channel 14 should not lie fallow in schools, libraries and other venues in urban areas if it can be accessed on a secondary basis without interfering with TLPS deployments.

HIA said it supports spectrum sharing, but that new rules should be crafted only after consideration of all affected technologies, not just a few, and a major spectrum allocation decision about this should be done during open discussions rather than what it called last-minute negotiations.

The WCAI said those advocating for unlicensed access to the spectrum at issue have presented a proposal that's at best "half baked." Fundamental details about how such access would work and how it would be controlled to make sure it doesn't interfere with BRS/EBS operations remain unaddressed, according to the association.

For more:
- see this HIA filing (PDF)
- see this WCAI filing (PDF)

Related articles:
Globalstar plan sparks flurry of meetings, calls to FCC
Google revisits general public use of Wi-Fi Channel 14
Globalstar draws ire of Bluetooth hearing aid community
Globalstar warns against path to 'Google-ized' spectrum

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